The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World franchise is a dork media triathlon encompassing the original graphic-novel series, the movie, and now the video game. Each piece of the Scott Pilgrim tri-force seems designed to persuade you to seek out the other two.
Just as in the movie and the books, the video-game Scott discovers that Ramona has seven evil exes, all of whom are determined to prevent anyone else from dating her — an obvious metaphor for Scott's fear that he doesn't deserve her. The final boss, Nega-Scott, represents the battle Scott's been fighting with himself all along. The game doesn't bother to delve into any of that — like the movie, it functions as a companion piece to the books. Both the film and the game focus on the action and the cutesy video-game references rather than the story.
The original graphic novels humorously juxtapose realistic situations with a '90s-era-video-game fantasy world. (The title here pays homage to the famous 1991 Simpsons
-themed video game, Bart vs. the World
.) Scott and his friends seem right at home in the mimicry of 8-bit and 16-bit games of the early '90s, and the gameplay borrows from '90s beat-'em-up favorites River City Ransom
and Streets of Rage
The Story Mode lasts several hours, depending on which of the three difficulty settings you select. That doesn't include the hours you could sink into the hidden modes (Zombie Survival Mode and Boss Rush Mode) in order to earn the two extra unlockable characters and invest in the game's shops, which are stocked with more weapons and power-ups than you could possibly buy and try in just one play-through.
You can play as Scott, as Ramona, or as one of Scott's two friends: Kim Pine and Stephen Stills. (The unplayable Knives Chau appears only in special attacks.) Four-player couch co-op has gone out of fashion, and its inclusion here adds to the nostalgic flavor. The game gets harder if you play alone, because you won't have anyone to revive you or watch your back when enemies start coming from all sides. And there's no online multi-player — just like gaming in the '90s, before people could play online together! Except that's not something gamers really wanted to relive.
The other downside is the buggy programming. Ubisoft probably rushed the game's release to coincide with the film's, but that was a mistake. It doesn't freeze often, but just once is enough to make you pull your hair out, especially if you're almost at the end of a level. Also, enemies sometimes get trapped off screen, and that's a problem because you can't move forward till you've killed them all. (Using your taunt can help coax them out.)
Some gamers haven't experienced any of those problems. Most of my issues occurred in the first couple of levels, after which there was smooth sailing. Here's hoping the developers release a patch soon to fix the PSN version — but even with the occasional bugs and lack of online multi-player, at just $10, the game feels like a steal. The Xbox Live Arcade was due this past Wednesday (August 25); the delayed release could make for a smoother, cleaner game. If you own both consoles, it might be worth the wait.